Happy Holidays!

cinnamon-stars-2991174_1920

I’ll be taking a little holiday break over the next week to spend time with family and will return in January with my top picks for 2017! I promise to try to keep my lists to a sensible size, though I do seem to fail every year. There are always so many great books to recommend.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you!

3 Silly Picture Books

Accident By Andrea Tsurumi

Accident! By Andrea Tsurumi (9780544944800)

Lola spills juice all over a chair and decides to run away and hide in the library until she’s a grownup. As she runs to the library, Lola meets a series of other animals having their own accidents and disasters. She takes them all with her to the library. But soon the disasters multiply as they run, turning the entire town into chaos. Even the library itself is soon a catastrophe. Then the little red bird explains that these are all just accidents and they should make it better. So each animal returns to the mess they have made and fixes things with apologies, help and towels. Throughout this picture book the pace gets faster and faster as the accidents build up and up. The illustrations are filled with small details and it’s worth slowing down and noticing all of the little touches of disaster as the pages get more chaotic. A book that celebrates taking responsibility even in the face of the ultimate mess. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Read the Book Lemmings by Ame Dyckman

Read the Book Lemmings by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9780316343480)

Head out on an Arctic adventure aboard the S.S. Cliff with Foxy, Captain PB and three little lemmings. Foxy is trying to read a book about lemmings but the problem is that the lemmings themselves haven’t read it. As Foxy reads aloud that lemmings don’t actually jump off of cliffs, the three lemmings immediately jump overboard. Foxy tries again to show them the information, but still, the three lemmings jump overboard again. Eventually Foxy realizes why the lemmings won’t read the book, but they have one more trick for him! Dyckman has an impeccable sense of timing in this picture book, creating moments of true hilarity that are a pleasure to share aloud. The book is simply written which adds to its appeal. The illustrations have great sense of style to them with a pink sky, deep ocean-blue water, and lemmings that wear hats so you can tell them apart. Funny, deeply silly and heart warming, despite the cold water. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake (9781419726996)

A little boy declares that he can get ready for the bath by himself, but gets himself stuck in his shirt. He thinks about what would happen if he was permanently stuck in his shirt. It might be alright sometimes, but what about when he gets thirsty or wants to play with his cat? He realizes he could figure out inventive ways to solve those problems. Unfortunately, then he tries to take off his pants and manages to get entirely stuck. Luckily his mom appears and rescues him. Every child has gotten stuck in their clothes and will enjoy laughing along as this child figures out clever ways to live in a shirt. The (literal)  twist of the pants at the end is cleverly done and offers just the right silly tone and a glimpse of a bare bottom too. Share this one after a bath. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

4 Great Graphic Novels

5 Worlds The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel (9781101935880)

This is the first book in an epic new graphic novel series that promises lots of adventures across five different worlds. Oona Lee studies at the Sand Dancer Academy but she is known as a failed student. When an attack occurs, Oona knows she has to reach her older sister, who can actually sand dance and is the best bet for being able to light the Beacon. Along the way, she meets two other children who are willing to help her. There is An Tzu, a boy from the slums who is starting to disappear, literally. And Jax Amboy, one of the biggest athletes in the galaxy, who is also hiding his own secret. As the three join together, they set off on a wild ride of an adventure that reveals their secrets and their hidden skills.

This graphic novel is bright colored and full of surprises as readers learn about the new science fiction setting they are exploring. There are plant people, lots of bad guys, secret identities, intrigue and lies. It’s a wild ride of a graphic novel and one that is sure to please many young readers. Just make sure to get the second one in the series next year! Appropriate for ages 9-12. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

Bolivar by Sean Rubin (9781684150694)

Bolivar is a dinosaur living in the bustle and crowds of New York City without ever being discovered. He doesn’t just stay at home, venturing out into the city to visit the used book store, see new exhibits at the museums, and buy a copy of the New Yorker. Then a neighbor girl notices that Bolivar is a dinosaur. Sybil tries to get the adults in her life to believe her, even giving a presentation at school about her dinosaur neighbor. No one believes her until one day, Bolivar gets a traffic ticket despite not having a car. He tries to set things straight, but it just gets more and more complicated until he is suddenly outed as a dinosaur by Sybil who then has to figure out how to repair things.

This graphic novel is brilliant. Clearly designed with a deep love of New York City, the neighborhood is captured with an eye for small details and invites readers to also fall for the great City. The ability of adults and humans to miss the fact that there is a dinosaur right in front of them is a great basis for a book and completely believable. The art is distinctive and inviting as is the humor and the pace. Pure joy in a graphic novel that will have you believing in Bolivar too. Appropriate for ages 6-9.  (Reviewed from library copy.)

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale (9781419721281)

Strata, her brother and a friend from their caravan spend their days scavenging for technology and metals that have been overlooked by the alien Pipers. One day they discover a robot horse and then a hidden room filled with other robots and technology. The problem is that large areas of technology draw in the Pipers and soon they are being pursued for their discovery. Strata uses the robot horse to run with her friends, but the rough world outside that has been eaten away at by the invading alien Pipers makes for a daunting maze. Meanwhile, their families are searching for them as they discover another girl living a very different but equally dangerous life.

Hale has created an entirely unique science fiction graphic novel. He uses a very restrained color palette, allowing the golden robot horse to be some of the only bright color on the page. Using fine lines, grays and yellows, the story shows a devastated earth, the oppressors and a frightening future. Filled with great adventure and heroic young people, this is a story worth devouring. Appropriate for ages 9-12. (Review copy received from Amulet Books.)

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim (9781770462939)

This graphic novel tells the story of the author’s childhood as a girl in Iraq. The book shares small glimpses of life in Iraq, schools, families and more. It is a lovely way to see a culture. Unfortunately, there is also state control as Saddam Hussein comes into power and things change. Throughout the book, there is a sense of history being shared as an adult, of a beloved land lost and a country so changed it is almost unrecognizable and yet filled with family still. The art is playful and light, a strong contrast to the often heavy subject matter. Religion plays a large part in the book as the author grew up in a Christian family in an Arab part of the world. Deftly written, this book invites readers into the author’s story and leaves them with a much deeper understanding of Iraq as a result. Appropriate for ages 12-14.  (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

 

 

3 Seasonal Picture Books

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown

Good Day, Good Night by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Loren Long (9780062383105)

A little bunny wakes up in the morning and greets the day, saying goodbye to the night. Trees, birds, kittens and more come to life as the day dawns. The day continues and then in the evening, the moon rises. Night begins and the bees and birds and town settle down once more into a quiet night. The poetry here by Brown is ever so lovely, lulling and sweet. It invites both a warm look at waking up but also a snuggly look at night coming. The illustrations by Long create a world of rabbits, a village filled with activity and a glimpse of nature responding to day and night as well. This is a picture book just right for bedtime or morning. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (9781481448451)

Walt is the smallest snowplow in the city’s fleet, so when the big storm arrives, no one wants to drive him. Soon the parking lot is empty with only Walt left behind. Then Gus arrives and merrily prepares to drive Walt into the storm. Walt works hard into the night to clear bridges and roads, trying to prove that he’s up to the big job. Then he reaches a big hill. They could leave it for a larger truck to handle, but Walt wants to try. He slips and slides all the way up, but getting down could be even worse! This picture book is a snowy riff on The Little Engine that Could, offering a bright red little hero willing to take on big challenges. The tone throughout is friendly and fun. Any little one who enjoys books about trucks will love curling up with this one during snow season. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson

Snow Scene by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9781626726802)

Explore a snowy area with this inviting and engaging picture book. With very simple text that asks readers to guess at what is coming next, this book has a freshness that is very appealing. The simple text focuses on speaking directly to the reader, showing different aspects of a snowy day that slowly transitions to spring and then summer, where snow is only on the far mountain top. The art by Seeger has a strong textural element that will have small children running their fingers over the smooth pages. It is rich and inviting, sometimes close up and other times just hinting at what is to come. This seasonal picture book celebrates snow in all of its forms, winter and summer. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English (9780544839571)

In 1965 Los Angeles, Sophie has moved to a new neighborhood as one of the only African-American families. Her summer is complicated not only by the move but by her sister leaving for college in August and her parent’s marriage becoming rocky. There are also external forces, like a pack of sisters in the new neighborhood who target Sophie and won’t let her swim with them. She does have one good friend, Jennifer, who stands up for Sophie and protests the way the others treat her. But racism is everywhere as Sophie discovers when she tries out for the community play, when she tries to shop in stores, and when she takes rides in cars with her sister’s boyfriend. When the riots in Watts erupt, Sophie discovers that the life in her wealthy neighborhood is not the one that others lead in the same city.

English, a Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner, brilliantly explores privilege and racism in this novel where Sophie lives a mix of both. The author directly looks at the color of skin, at the privilege given to those with lighter skin. She also explore wealth and the way that African-American families living in wealthier communities still face racism, both directly and indirectly. English’s pace here is very special with its mix of languid summer days, racial tensions, lack of parental involvement and then the riots.

Sophie is a well drawn protagonist as is her sister and her sister’s boyfriend. They each have distinct viewpoints, struggle with the expectations of family and society, and find themselves asking deeper questions about life in 1965. Sophie herself is often living in a bubble, but it is also one that is pierced regularly by the way others treat her. She is cleverly crafted, constantly learning and realizing how complex the world is.

This novel looks deeply into race in our country, offering a direct link between the Watts riots on today’s Black Lives Matter movement. It is timely, important and doesn’t offer easy answers. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are some cool links I shared on my TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr accounts in the last week:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

13 recommended reads to diversify your kids’ bookshelves: https://t.co/mXw3EDbZLb

Get out the tape and scissors! 10 Crafty and Bookish Holiday Displays |

Graphic Novels foster literacy

My BEST PICTURE BOOKS OF 2017 picks on

Tell Us Your Favorite Books and We’ll Tell You Your Hogwarts House

TEEN LIT

What a Cross-Dressing Literary Lady Knight Taught Me About Gender and Sexuality |

3 Friendly Picture Books

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi (9781626725638)

In this wordless picture book, two boys are drawing lines towards each other without realizing it. When they bump into each other, they join their lines together. But then with an accidental rude tug, the two of them begin a tug of war over their line. Soon an actual rift begins to form between them. The more they pull, the larger the rift grows. Is there a way for them to reach across the newly formed divide? Otoshi plays with the idea of art bringing people together and then introduces competition and a certain amount of tension into the story. The art is playful and uses colors to show the emotions the children are feeling in each scene. A strong picture book about art and friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein

I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Scott Magoon (9781481472500)

A blue owl has a big red balloon. When a monkey sees it, he wants it so badly. He offers several things in trade for it, but the owl doesn’t agree. Owl turns down a sunflower, a robot, a picture of balloons and a ball. In desperation, he offers a sock. Suddenly Owl perks up and starts to dream of all the things he can do with that sock with a red star on it and a perfect hole. But the deal is not so easily made! This clever and very funny picture book is written entirely in dialogue between the two animals. It has a vibrant and natural feel to it and is ideal for sharing aloud. The art by Magoon is also hilarious, offering ways to use socks, balloons and more. And the expressions on the animals faces are perfection. A fun pick for story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)

La La La by Kate DiCamillo

La La La by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jaime Kim (9780763658335)

Newbery Medalist DiCamillo has created a nearly wordless picture book. A little girl sings all on her own, heading outside to sing to the world. Exploring the pond and the plants, she continues to sing. She even heads out in the evening to try again, but nothing works. After she falls asleep, someone answers her after all. Kim’s illustrations offer a world that plays between blank white and a lush world of daylight greens and evening purples. Throughout the illustrations there is a sense of hope and wonder, of knowing that the world is listening. Gentle and thoughtful, this is one to share and then discuss together. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (9781481419451)

When their plane crashes in the Amazon, four children are the only ones who survive. Now it is up to them to figure out how to survive in the vast jungle. There is Fred, a teen who has always dreamed of exploring wilderness and of the fame that comes with it. There is Con, a girl with almost no family and even fewer friends. Then Lila and her five-year-old brother Max complete the group. Lila only wants to keep Max healthy and alive, despite all of his attempts to get into trouble. As they forage for food, they discover a man-made shelter and then a series of clues that lead them to a crude map. Having built a raft from wood and vines, they follow the map to discover another human surviving in the jungle, someone so angry that he may not help them at all.

Rundell’s body of work is one of the most varied in children’s literature. The unifying feature though is her ability to bring a setting fully to life for the reader. Here, the setting is incredibly detailed and readers will get to learn about things like eating grubs, vines that make your skin itch, the right way to cook a spider over an open flame, and much more. Rundell doesn’t just present this information, she injects it into her story, showing how rich and beautiful the Amazon is even as she presents its dangers.

The four young characters make a strong group as they work together to survive. Rundell does not give any of them perfect characters, allowing the oldest to wrestle with his wish for fame, others to struggle to communicate, and the youngest to simply be awfully annoying at times. This too adds to the realistic feel of the novel, and in the end shows that friendships can be forged with even the most unlikely of people.

Filled with adventure, wilderness and plenty of icky moments, this is a gripping and fabulous look at the Amazon. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

3 Picture Books to Get You Outside

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Red Koehler
(9781629794938)

Three children are up in their treehouse in the dark with a flashlight. As the flashlight beam breaks the night, it reveals an adventure. The children head into a woods, through a tomb, on to a pirate shore. There are sword battles, a grabby giant squid, and finally an escape. Then they are back in their treehouse, sharing a good book by flashlight. The text quietly builds the space for the illustrations that fill the page with discoveries by the handheld light. Throughout, there is a feeling of wonder, of the light revealing things that may or may not be there. The illustrations are exceptional, showing the joy of flashlights in the dark and the power of imaginations at play. Perfect to read with flashlights and then head outside for your own adventures. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Lines by Suzy Lee

Lines by Suzy Lee (9781452156651)

A lone ice skater skates past leaving swirling lines on the ice. There are curls and tight spirals and loose curves that feel like music on the page. In her red hat and mittens, the ice skater fills the page with her patterns. Then she falls to the ground and suddenly the page is crumpled up by the artist in frustration. Unfolded again, the page is wrinkled and smudged. But soon more skaters are joining in and the crumpled page becomes a pond filled with people enjoying the ice. Lee once again creates a beautifully simple book that speaks to nature, beauty and quiet. The use of the pulling back and having the artist crumple the page breaks the fourth wall and then turns the picture book into something even more interesting and fresh. This picture book is beautifully designed and very clever. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy supplied by Chronicle Books.)

Windows by Julia Denos

Windows by Julia Denos (9780763690359)

Windows light up as night falls in this picture book that takes readers outside to explore a neighborhood. A boy heads out to walk the dog as night falls, able to see into others’ homes as he passes by. He can see people eating, partying, watching TV. He glimpses a cat and a raccoon. Some windows are dark, some houses are entirely dark. Then those are left to his imagination. Soon he returns back home to his own glowing window where his mother waits for him. There is a lovely quiet to this book, a pleasure in being outside at sunset, the sky lit with colors as the buildings turn dark with windows alight. The illustrations are beautiful, lit by the reds of the sky and the darkness growing with each turn of the page. Time for a flashlight walk in your neighborhood! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (ARC provided by Candlewick Press.)